Prey is a blood-soaked Predator sequel with teeth

by 24britishtvAug. 4, 2022, 9:01 p.m. 19
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If there’s anything we’ve learned from the sliding scale of quality in the various spinoffs, sequels, and prequels of the 1987 sci-fi classic Predator, it’s that even the less impressive ones have some mileage. It’s a basic concept that proves elastic: various groups of tough individuals face even tougher aliens, who treat the Earth as an extended version of their hunting ground for sport.

The latest of these films – Prey – takes the prequel idea and runs with it, with all the ferocity and enthusiasm of someone being chased by a predatory space alien.

Set some 300 years ago in what was once the Northern Great Plains region of North America, the film provides the Predators with a worthy adversary. At the time, this was the territory of one of the most fearsome and proud tribes of Native Americans – and certainly one of the most warlike in the history of the screen (ask John Wayne) – the Comanches.

The film first introduces us to the teenage Naru (Amber Midthunder), a young woman determined to be a fierce Comanche hunter in spite of being overshadowed by her big brother (Dakota Beavers). Her own lack of experience comes back to aid her in her fight for survival against the aliens: they only take seriously those they consider genuine threats, and they take Naru for granted as an innocent.

Grounded in authentic Comanche history and with a cast comprising almost entirely First Nations people, Prey does an excellent job of exploring the indiginous past without exoticising it.

It’s a real credit to the film that it seems genuinely grounded in this culture while still maintaining its sense of blood-soaked action (a large spear thrown at the perfect moment, eviscerating the enemy; a beeping explosive device fascinating 18th-century settlers more than it frightens them, to predictably unfortunate result; hacking, slicing, and general mayhem).

It does perhaps lean too heavily into the young woman’s coming of age and her ability to prove herself, giving a vaguely proto-feminist bent to proceedings that feels a little besides the point in a film set in 1719.

The film also falls at the hurdle of SFX: the Predator(s) aren’t in full view too often, which it uses to its benefit, but when you do see one he looks rather hoky – just a man in a suit. Equally, animals that we’ve seen up close in wildlife documentaries here look so obviously like CGI creations that you have to suspend your disbelief to get into the scenes.

Directed by Dan Trachtenberg – (previously responsible for 10 Cloverfield Lane, a thriller with enough tightly plotted violence to whet the appetite for his work on this project) – Prey still never stops being what you need it to be: totally entertaining, with the ability to drop the viewer in a remote historical landscape and culture without goofiness.

Once the dreadlocked, quadruple-toothed interplanetary hunters land, and the war cry of the white and red-painted Comanches sounds, it’s hard not to strap in and enjoy the adventure.

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